New Orleans…….there’s a peculiar vibe that echoes along the streets as you walk through. A three hundred year old energy that draws you in and makes you feel like you’re not alone on this plane sustained by the smell of jasmine that comes and goes like a transient daydream.
It’s an amazingly refreshing smell; that is until you reach Bourbon Street. Synonymous with street drinking, flashing girls, beads and public intoxication; Bourbon Street definitely lives up to its reputation. If I may be so blunt… it’s gross. There are puddles of murky, putrid foulness everywhere. Now, I know I don’t paint a pretty picture of Bourbon Street, but it’s kind of a rite of passage when you visit New Orleans for the first time. You still should try it. Buy a drink in an obnoxiously large cup and walk down the street. Even if you only walk a block, you should do it at least once.
Mark Twain said it best when he called New Orleans food “as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin”. New Orleans has flavors you can’t find anywhere else. Everything we ate was a grand experience for our taste buds. I’d be lying if I said we weren’t in a food coma throughout the entire trip. I’ll go into greater detail about what and where we ate in my next post.
Ghosts, Alligators and Vampires
We headed out to the Bayou early Sunday morning for an up close and personal with the local gators. The Bayou is beautiful. The trees are covered with Spanish moss, there are magnificent looking birds and of course alligators. Funny thing about Spanish moss, it’s not Spanish and neither is it a moss. It actually is from the same family as pineapples and is native to the Bahamas, Mexico and Southern United States.
Seeing the gators in the wild and interacting as opposed to the ones in the zoo that just lay in one sad spot all day was incredible. It was incredible to see them laying in ambush mode, waiting for a raccoon or bird to get too close to the edge of the water. Our swamp tour included some wild boar and raccoons and we even got to see the tree that Disney used for inspiration for “The Princess and the Frog”.
Sunday night we took one of the New Orleans Ghost/Vampire tours. It was a lot of fun touring the city at night and hearing all the local ghost stories. We got to see one of the houses used to film “Interview with the Vampire” and the haunted home that had been purchased by Nicholas Cage and supposedly bankrupt him. Although we didn’t see any ghosts, our tour guide was an amazing story-teller.
The French Quarter
The French Quarter is so beautiful. The architecture is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. The intricate iron work, the big beautiful balconies with all the hanging ferns. And the colors! Everything is so colorful!
We started Monday morning in the French Quarter with beignets and chicory coffee at Café Du Monde. After our delicious breakfast, we headed over to Jackson Square. Jackson Square was the site of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. A statue of the hero of the Battle of New Orleans (1815), Andrew Jackson adorns the heart of Jackson Square. The beautiful St. Louis Cathedral overlooks the Square and is open for visitors to take a peek inside unless mass is in session. Muriel’s restaurant also overlooks Jackson Square and is a great place for lunch. If you’re looking for some delicious adult beverages they have those too and allow you to enjoy them on their balcony overlooking the square where you can watch the artists performing and selling their beautiful works of art on the sidewalks surrounding.
After exploring the square, we headed over to the French Market. I have to admit, the French market was a little disappointing. The market is full of souvenirs to fulfill your every whim, but the vendors are all selling the same things and very little of it was actually hand-made. So needless to say, we walked through the market pretty quickly and then headed over for a relaxing walk along the levees. New Orleans turned 300 this year and the city has a small lit anniversary sculpture to commemorate the event.
Everything in the French Quarter is a lot closer together than you think, so we were able to see and do everything we wanted in a lot less time than we initially planned. So with our extra time, we headed over to tour the WWII Museum. It came highly recommended by some of my co-workers, so we decided to check it out. Let me tell you, we were not disappointed. The museum is amazing and is very well-organized. It’s very interactive including a simulated train ride and submarine ride. Those are not included in a regular ticket but can be added on for a little extra. With a regular ticket you get a key card that you register on a kiosk before you enter the museum. From the kiosk, you get to pick someone either military or civilian who served during WWII and you can follow their stories throughout the exhibits with the kiosks located all throughout the building.
Better than Bourbon?
During our visit, a lot of the local residents told us we needed to check out Frenchmen Street. So we did and it did not disappoint. If you’re looking for a Bourbon Street-like experience, but without the obnoxious smell or inebriated people; well then Frenchmen Street is definitely for you. The average age of the people who hang around Frenchmen Street is about 10 years older than Bourbon Street, there are better options for Jazz Clubs and they have a great open air market called Palace Market where local artists sell their work. I love art and getting to meet the artist is an incredible bonus. We came home with some really great pieces.
The Garden District
In the Garden District you will find some of the most beautiful architecture we’ve ever seen. The mansions are spectacular and home to quite a few celebrities. We managed to find one of writer Anne Rice’s homes. It was pretty spectacular. The Garden District is also home to a beautiful historic cemetery, Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. You do not need a tour guide for this particular cemetery, but people are available at the entrance if you do want one. Since most of New Orleans is below sea level, above ground tombs are a necessity. The design and architecture of these crypts is beautiful. So much history can be seen here, a lot of the graves show many generations of a family in the same tomb. The Garden District is accessible via the Saint Charles Street Car if you’re not crunched for time. If you do take the street car, make sure you have exact change for the ride. Some locations allow you to purchase a day pass if you plan on riding the street cars around the city.
“If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.”
― Louis Armstrong
My husband and I were a couple of band geeks throughout our middle and high school careers, but neither of us could have ever dreamed of being as amazing as the musicians at Preservation Hall. It’s the jazz music your band teacher has wet dreams about.
If you want to hear traditional New Orleans jazz in an intimate setting, Preservation Hall is the place. The venue is however very small, so intimate is an accurate description. We opted to purchase tickets for the “Big Shot” seats. These tickets allow you to skip the line and have an actual seat in the two front rows. If you don’t have tickets, you will have to get in line early to get in and you will be standing for the performance as well. Now, even if you’re not able to get into Preservation Hall, you’ll still have plenty of opportunities to hear jazz music. There are jazz clubs all over the city or you may come across an impromptu performance on a street corner.
Although short, our trip to New Orleans was amazing. She’s an amazing hostess, and there’s no place quite like her. Until we meet again New Orleans, we bid you adieu.